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SPAWNews, January, 2001

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New Year’s Resolution: Write a Book

- © 2001 Mary Embree

How do you start?

The Idea always comes first. You have to know what you want to write about before you start writing. Next comes the title. Or several possible titles. The title isn’t important in the beginning because as you go along you may change it; you may find a title you hadn’t thought of until you had written most of the book.

The concept sometimes changes. It may grow, improve, maybe even move in a different direction from that which you had originally planned. That’s okay—if it works. If it goes off on a tangent, veers off the track, or becomes a different book, stop and take stock.

Reread what you have written. Do you really want to write a different book? If not, where did your writing start to go astray? You will find out quickly if you read it aloud to yourself. You will start to stumble over the words and you will know. Pull out what doesn’t belong but don’t throw it away. There may be some useful ideas there. Put those away for now. Then go back and pick up the thread of your story and start writing again.

Is it hard to get started? Kristen Hunter is quoted in Black Women Writers at Work: “Writing is harder than anything else; at least starting to write is.”

Don’t worry if you can’t figure out what that first page, first paragraph, first sentence should be. You don’t have to know that now. You might find after you have written 15 chapters that your book really starts at Chapter Five and you can throw away Chapters One, Two, Three, and Four or plug them in somewhere else.

Plan your book

Do an outline or write chapter headings and a short paragraph on what’s in each chapter. Some writers put this information on small index cards and arrange them on a table. They can then see the whole book at a glance and rearrange the cards if necessary. If you are writing a novel, write character sketches too. Get to know the information, people, and events that are involved in your story so that you can confidently introduce them to the reader. Once you have a plan, a road map of where you are going, you will never encounter writer’s block.

Have a clear idea of what you want to say and then develop your concept along those lines. But don’t be rigid. Let it flow like water in a stream, following its own natural course. Unleash your creativity; you can always cut and edit later. Make it interesting. If it interests you, it probably will interest others.

Start working on a book proposal as soon as the idea for a book occurs to you. That will guide you in organizing your work and give you some idea of whether your book has a good chance of getting published.

Keep writing!

—Excerpted from The Author’s Toolkit: a Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Book by Mary Embree, Seaview Publishing; $15.95. Available in bookstores.

Network Your Way To Success

by Patricia L. Fry

In writing, there is a time for solitude and there is a time for connecting with others. While you may prefer creating behind closed doors in order to be read, you need to draw attention to yourself and to your work. Become as successful as you dare. Take advantage of the networking opportunities available to you virtually everywhere—through SPAWN, other writing and publishing organizations, on the Internet and even in your daily life. Here are some tips for the networker:

  1. Gravitate toward those who have information you can use. Join organizations like SPAWN where you will meet others who are interested in publishing.
  2. Be aware of the opportunities around you. Listen to others and if you think they have information you can use, ask them about it. Most people are eager to help.
  3. Know what specific information or resources you want. Often people ask me, "How can I get my book or my article published?" There's no way to answer that question in five or ten minutes. Ask, instead, "Can you recommend a good book on self-publishing?" Or "Where can I find the most complete list of magazine editors?"
  4. Be considerate. Don't take up too much of anyone's time. If you need more information or resources than they can offer in just a few minutes, make an appointment for a paid consultation or at least take the person to lunch.
  5. Be gracious. Sometimes the advice or information you receive is something you have tried or that you feel uncomfortable with. Don't criticize his ideas. Courteously accept the offering and move on.
  6. Do your own research. Never ask the other person to make the contact for you or to do additional research, when it is something you can do yourself.
  7. Give thanks. People like to know they have been effective in their goal to help you. Time, thoughtfulness and energy have value. Honor the gift by telling the giver how his/her information helped you.

When you are the networkee:

  1. Give willingly to others when they ask for your help. Likewise, if you run across something that you think might be of interest to a colleague, pass it along.
  2. Know when to say "no." Sometimes people are so excited about the information and resources you're sharing that they can't stop asking for more. If you feel tapped out, politely offer the other person your card. Suggest that they make an appointment for a paid consultation or recommend a good book they can read or Web site they can visit on the subject.
  3. Help people to help themselves. Merely show them the way, don't do the work for them.
  4. Give graciously. In other words, don't be attached to how the other person uses the information you give them. Everyone has a different level of motivation and self-discipline. Expecting someone who is not a self-starter to start a publishing business overnight is not a reasonable expectation.
  5. Follow-up. If you think of something more you could give to the networker, contact him with the additional information. Likewise, call or email him within a couple of weeks to see how he is progressing with his project. Remember that successful networking is a give and take proposition.

—Patricia Fry is author of A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit and Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book. For more information, visit

Contests &Awards

ForeWord Book of the Year Awards

The editors at ForeWord Magazine established their Book of the Year Award to bring increased attention from librarians and booksellers to the literary achievements of independent publishers and their authors. A librarian and a bookseller are selected to judge each of the 37 categories, which include Anthologies, Children’s, Cookbooks, Education, Fiction, Humor and more. Entry fee is $50 per title and must be submitted with a registration form. Entries must be postmarked no later than January 15, 2001. For more information, please contact the ForeWord offices. Phone 231/933-3699; fax 231/933-3899 or e-mail

electric atmosphere at SPAWN Poetry Event

Yes, poetry is alive and well in San Diego! On November 28, at the Claire De Lune coffee shop, the poetry venue Poetic Brew welcomed SPAWN and its first poetry anthology, Electric Rain. Patricia Fry, editor of Electric Rain, gave attendees information about SPAWN. Then, several SPAWN poets whose work was featured in the anthology presented their poems to the very large, enthusiastic group. Participants included Patricia Fry, Gerald Schiller, Tarra Lynne Reeb, Roni* and Cheryl Latif, weekly host of this very vibrant poetry hangout. The evening was a great send-off for SPAWN’s first book. To get your copy of Electric Rain, please consult the December issue of SPAWNews for order information.

—Roni*, author of Sensuous Cinema of My Mind

Online Marketing for Book and Publishing Web Sites:

Step 1, Page Preparation

SPAWN is a nonprofit corporation. Donations are tax deductible.

Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network

P.O. Box 2653

Ventura, CA 93002


Telephone & Fax: 805-646-3045

Wendy Dager

Senior Editor


Hal Ranzenhofer

Managing Editor

Telephone: 805/984-3216


Virginia Lawrence

SPAWN Webmaster


Jean Wade

President, Santa Barbara County Chapter.


Carol Doering

President, Ventura County Chapter.


Patricia Fry

Vice President


Ruth Hibbard

Treasurer and Membership Chair


Advisory Council

Patricia Fry

Author, Publisher

Rosalie Heacock

Literary Agent

Andora Hodgin

Writer, Editor, Publicist

Irwin Zucker

Book Publicist

Jim Lane


Marcia Grad-Powers


Melvin Powers


Dan Poynter

Author, Publisher

Mary Embree

Author, Publishing Consultant

Board of Directors

Mary Embree

Author, Editor, Literary Consultant

Founder and President of SPAWN

Patricia Fry

Vice President

Virginia Lawrence, PhD

Writer, Editor, Webmaster

Secretary of SPAWN

Ruth Hibbard


Frances Halpern

Author, Columnist, Talk-show Host

Marsha Karpeles

Executive Director, Manuscript Libraries

Richard F.X. O'Connor

Author, Publisher, Editor, Consultant


To provide education, information, resources and a supportive networking environment for artists, writers, and other creative people interested in the publishing process.




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